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Flashbacks, Theater, Finals, and Tye Tribbett April 27, 2010
Some years ago, when I was in high school, I went to the birthday celebration of a person in our church and youth group. Her name is Datrean. At the little party with the youth group members, we talked and had laughs, but we were still waiting to cut the cake and get to the presents. While we were waiting, one other youth member started playing music. It was a song by Tye Tribbett, back before I knew who he was, and it was a song from his album Victory Live called “Bless the Lord”. The song started coming from the boombox, and the first words of the song, spoken by Tye, were coming through the speakers: “We gonna bless the Lord/We gonna take it back…” Over and over it was said, and it had me quite puzzled. As some of the others started dancing, I went up to the member who started playing the music and asked, quite seriously, “Why is he saying that? How can you bless the Lord and then take it back?”
My two drama groups at school (L.I.F.E. Ministries and Impressions Ministries) just finished their two original plays. L.I.F.E. did their play on the 16th, and Impressions did theirs on the 23rd. The last several weeks have been stressful with both plays and with school and other such issues. You see, I am a chronic worrier. I worry about everything that there is in this world. When I have good friends, I worry about them. When I have schoolwork, I worry about it. When I have nothing to worry about, I will find something to worry about and then continue worrying. It’s a habit that I need to be rid of, but God’s still working on me. But with the plays, my schoolwork, other personal issues, and my constant worrying, mixing those together made a potent recipe for a breakdown cocktail. I found myself walking to the Administration building on a beautiful sunny day, but feeling absolutely hopeless and alone, like anything I did would fail. I ended up bumping into the L.I.F.E. Ministries director, Fabio, and I told him how I was feeling after he inquired. He sat me down and talked to me, reminding me that God has everything under control, no matter what the circumstances, and that I shouldn’t worry over what God already is handling. After he prayed with me, I started to feel so much better, like I could actually make it through the day. I brought myself to start writing again and working on my schoolwork with excitement (somewhat). I felt like I could make it.
But, as always, reality likes to come in and bonk you on the head. I felt overwhelmed again with everything I had to do. The papers I had to write weighed heavily on my mind, and the extra problems I was dealing with only made it worse. Stress was overtaking me again. And so it crossed over into my daily life. I started to push friends away again and get easily frazzled. The 23rd came, the day of the Impressions play. I was in charge of props and cues, so I was organizing all the props according to scenes and making sure that they were out on stage during their time. I was already pretty stressed because of other issues, but I tried to suck it up and focus all my attention on the play. Yet, while one scene opened up, I was preoccupied with something else and didn’t get in a few props on the stage before the lights went up. Even though it was a thing to quickly pass, I was still greatly upset. As one of the other members of Impressions, Heidi, came to me and told me not to freak and that it was in the Lord’s hands, I simply tore away from her embrace, not wanting to hear it. But the fact was that the Lord did have it under control, and the play went well. So why did I freak out?
We, as people, feel that we control our lives, but even though we have free choice, God is the one that controls this universe and everything in it. I, like many other Christians, desire to just turn over everything to Him and not stress, but I end up worrying over those things I gave to Him anyway. Maybe you may not have the same problem, but maybe you can relate anyway. For instance, how many of us try to give up a bad habit and run back to it a little later, or even worship God and then are cruel to others a few minutes later? How many of us pledge to love God and don’t try to help, or even understand our neighbor? There are so many other examples of this kind of behavior when it comes to God in our lives. In doing this, are we nullifying the glory that we proclaim God has? If God is sovereign over our lives, shouldn’t we let Him be sovereign? We often bring things to the foot of Calvary, but not often do we leave them there. Maybe we do bless the Lord and then take it back.
Transitioning: Countdown to 20 April 9, 2010
I like dark-sounding songs. Slow, thoughtful major chords intertwined with minor chords filled with emotions of sadness, anger, confusion, chaos. Songs of people making sense of the world, searching for meaning, wrestling with their sanity. I’ve been fixated on these songs as of late, mostly because I can relate all too well, especially over the past semester. I’ve been losing my bearings, not knowing my purpose, my reason for being where I am. I felt lost, well, feel lost. I think of my life and the future, and the word “failure” almost always pops in my mind. You’re not going to make it, the malicious voices say. You’re gonna end up messing everything up. Nothing will work out, as usual. The thoughts have consumed me time and again, permeating through different aspects of my life. They have joined together and become a boa constrictor, with me as the prey. What to do to stop my own discouragement from choking me and swallowing me whole?
I am lacking something in my life, something that has left me with a huge, gaping, gasping hole. That hole is making everything else seem worthless and impossible. It’s almost like a black hole, sucking my life dry of hope and motivation, dragging everything else along with it. Something is missing, and I am pretty sure I know what it is, rather, Who it is.
Listening to “Let that Be Enough” by Switchfoot again almost clarifies everything, and makes me wonder if this was written for someone like me. I hear the words and nod in agreement to every syllable. By the second verse, I start to personalize it a little…
It’s my birthday tomorrow
No one here could now
I was born this Saturday
20 years ago
And I feel stuck
Watching history repeating
Yeah, who am I?
Just a kid who knows she’s needy
Let me know that You hear me
Let me know Your touch
Let me know that You love me
And let that be enough
*Changed lyrics in italics
I need Him. I need Him more than anything else right now. In Him there is peace, joy, and contentment. Without, there’s… basically where I am now. But I feel so far and I don’t even know how I got here… what can I really do? Today is my last day as a teenager. Tomorrow I turn 20. Yet, all I truly am is a kid. My own plans for my life and all my efforts blow away in the wind like sand. The teacher was right; everything is vanity.
…You know…, I am going natural with my hair. I have been straightening it since I was 12 and getting constant relaxers, but I decided to quit it and go natural, because the chemicals keep burning my scalp, it was damaging my hair, and I wanted something new. I could have just cut off all my hair, but I decided to transition for a little while from last Thanksgiving. Now, the natural hair is about an inch long. I get fascinated touching the undergrowth and feeling all the pen-spring spirals, but then my fingertips touch the chemically-straightened hair still attached to the tight coils. It’s a pain transitioning when your hair is not in braids, twists, or some other protective style, because you end up fighting between the two textures and searching for a quick style that will not look strange. The temptation is always to get the undergrowth straight so it can conform to the rest of the hair, but then you realize that it’s not supposed to be straight, and this is what it’s going to be once the straight hair is gone. So, you learn to deal with and love your new, natural hair.
You see, my life is almost like my hair right now. I am transitioning. I am going into something new and different and kind of unexplored, yet completely natural. But it’s so frustrating, because a lot of the time I feel like I am going in blind into this thing that is so foreign, yet has been a part of me my whole life. At times I want to just go back to the way life was before, but then I realize that I am transitioning for a reason. I’m going to learn new stuff about myself, learn more about God, and learn to love Him and who I am.
Today is my last day as a teenager. Tomorrow I turn 20 years old. For half of my 19th year, I have felt lost and alone, but at least for the first day of my 20th year, I know where I’ll be.
I’ll be pushing the world aside, spending time with my God, getting to know Him better, and praying for rededication.
Alone in a Full room March 30, 2010
Lying in bed in my dorm room.The lights are out and my roommate is asleep. The only light source is coming from the screen of my laptop resting on my lap as the harmonies of rock ballads softly float from the speakers, singing ideas of life and its constant march; understanding, confusion, frustration, relationships, love, hate, mistakes, regrets… I sit up a bit and try to sort out my thoughts. The thoughts that don’t even make sense to me.
I was speaking with a friend over IM earlier. I recently returned to my room and was feeling kind of alone, so I divulged my thoughts to him. Being on a college campus, it’s a little hard to avoid the romantic couples around, so you eventually learn to just accept them. But even seeing close friends talking to each other unsettled me. “I kinda wish I could be close enough to someone to just sit down for hours and just talk with them,” I ended up saying. “Someone that doesn’t mind that I’m an overly-touchy person.” I told him how I am seen by some as being a people-person, loving crowds and excitement, but that I often feel isolated and alone, and I didn’t know why. He listened to me and tried to struggle with me. This wasn’t the first time he’s heard this from me. Something like this happened almost every week, and almost every time he asked me to buck up and be content with my life and where I am. It’s hard. It always feels like contentment is on a high shelf that I just can’t reach. Maybe I never can achieve that. I started to apologize for even bringing it up again and started to wonder why I even brought it up
“It’s because you must express it; it’s in your nature,” he said.
”But it does nothing,” I retaliated. “There is no point in this.”
“Your just looking for a greener pasture, Eve, and really, grass is grass. You eat it, you live on it, and you become it eventually, as deep as that sounds.”
Is that all there is to life? I started to think.
“Can’t you be content with what you have?” he asked me. “Your friends love you. I mean, I love you, too.”
I began to feel a little worse. My friends do love me. So why do I feel this hole?
”You have so much untapped potential. So what if you don’t have a cuddle buddy?”
My attention was arrested. “I’m sorry, but it’s more than that.”
”Well, what am I so clearly missing, then?”
I sighed, took a deep breath to clear my thoughts, and typed. “I want more than just someone to just snuggle up to. I just really want someone to understand; understand where I am coming from, my point of views, my feelings of loneliness and happiness and sadness and indignation, why I am overly-touchy. Someone who understands that I am an African born in America and that I am and love both cultures, and how I wish I could be a neo-bohemian if there even is such a thing, and how I love creative life, and how I love God but have a hard time connecting with Him, and that I am dark-skinned and kinky-haired and quirky and weird in everything I do… and just accept me for who I am.” I re-read that as I pressed enter and had a short overlook of my life. Everything I mentioned, I have had some sort of negative comment on it come from someone, usually constantly over a long period of time. It affected me ever since I was 8, and I guess it still does. I smiled slightly, bittersweetly.
“And there are people, or those who at least attempt. I mean, I’m not perfect, and you’re right, I don’t know you to that intimate of a level, but I try, and others do too, I’m sure. I mean, it sounds like you let them in, too, but sometimes I feel you hold back a lot too.”
He is right. He is right in every sense of the word. I tend to hold back my thoughts and emotions to become an observer, or I get too worried about letting people know how I am really feeling for whatever reason. Why? … I’m not sure. “…How can I expect someone to understand me when I don’t understand myself?”
“Well, by reading what you put up there, I’d say you know yourself pretty well.”
He soon had to go get some sleep. I couldn’t blame him; it was already past midnight. But I sat up longer and thought a little more over what I said to him.
…I love God but have a hard time connecting with Him…
It’s too true. Every time I want to reach out to Him, I keep feeling that He is just beyond my grasp. That I couldn’t have a close relationship with Him. I sighed again; the common sense in me reprimanded me and told me that I could always go to God, but emotionally, I just felt too far. Looking at my musical playlist, I double-clicked on “Let That Be Enough” by Switchfoot. Even though I had heard the song over and over before, I paid close attention to the words once again.
I wish I had what I need
To be on my own
‘Cause I feel so defeated
And I’m feeling alone
And it all seems so helpless
And I have no plans
I’m a plane in the sunset
With nowhere to land
And all I see It could never make me happy
And all my sand castles spend their time collapsing
Let me know that You hear me
Let me know Your touch
Let me know that You love me
Let that be enough
Another sigh. It’s my birthday in a week and some. I’m turning 20, and yet I am just a kid who knows she’s needy.
“…But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint…. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 40:31, 41:10)
It’s hard remembering that God is always with you, even when life feels like it’s falling apart, or that you have this hole in your life that seems to parade itself prominently to you but is invisible to everyone else. But He is; you just need to learn to fully lean on Him instead of fully depending on other people, no matter how good they are, because no one fully understands you but God. [Psalms 118:8]
Know that He hears you
Learn to know His touch
Know that He loves you…
…And let that be enough.
“Free At Last”? March 1, 2010
“We are being pacified!” he said. His vigor echoed though his words as they spread around the room and sunk into the spirits of the audience. “They say we have arrived. They show us all the singers, basketball players, entertainers; they show us people like Oprah and Beyonce and Barak Obama and they tell us that we, we African-Americans, black people, have arrived.” It was a Cafe night at the University, AART [African American Rhetoric and Tunes] from the Heart, held by the Communication Club and sponsored by Student Life. On the last Saturday evening of Black History Month, students and faculty gathered to hear stories, poetry and music from the past and the present, having a theme from 1955 to 1965. A unique feature of this program was that some of the participants portrayed Black legends such as Ella Fitzgerald, Maya Angelou and Martin Luther King, Jr. But the current speaker, the one that was capturing the attention and captivation of the onlookers, was Malcolm X speaking on the modern Black generation.
His tone demanded respect and attention, and everyone within earshot gave into his demands. “People, we are being pacified! Oprah may be one of the richest women in the country, but it doesn’t change that most of our people are living in poverty! We may have singers, ball-players and entertainers, but it doesn’t change the fact that less that 2% of the doctors in this country are Black! We may have Barak Obama as president, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are so few Black lawyers and Black men in college and the majority of Black men are locked up! They tell us to sing and dance, to entertain, they show us that we have a Black president, and they tell us we have arrived. Like a crying baby, they are pacifying us! We are not free; we are still in slavery!”
I sat there, listening to the passionate speech, and considered the words. Yes, there is a mask of “liberty and justice for all” covering the face of America when it comes to racial equality, when under said mask there is a lot that is lacking. Some is from society or sticking to the status quo; some is from tradition and expectations; some is self-inflicted; but no matter how much we wished it was otherwise there is not full equality when it comes to America. Yet, I found it strong when he said that we were still in slavery. If Blacks still truly are in slavery, then a lot of them are enslaved by their own choices. As “Martin Luther King, Jr.” said earlier that night, modern Black society in its media and pop-culture is glorifying all the things that people in the Civil Rights Movement fought against only about 50 years ago. Do we put ourselves into slavery? Are we holding the key to our own jail cell yet refuse to free ourselves?
This whole evening, I have had enough of my life. I was tired from the full day, frustrated at my own lack of concentration, stressing out about life and the future, and suffering a weekly case of Writer’s block for the school newspaper’s article. I vented to one of my friends online about how upset I was at that moment, and I started to deviate about how I couldn’t continue in modern society and live in the mundane, predictable lifestyle with the 9 to 5 job, deadlines and curfews, and all the countless responsibilities that were bound to come with age. As he said that it was just the way of life and I would become used to it, I refuted quickly saying, “I’ll never get used to it. I’ll live every day without meaning until I am sucked dry, but I will not get used to it.” He tried to convince me of meaning in such a life, but I would have none of it. I dreamed of freedom, something beyond the standard daily grind. He then asked me why I left home to come to Andrews University, specifically. I answered that I came here for a change, for something different than what I had in high school, but he then started to point out how I always seem tired, busy, stressed, and longing to run away. “It seems like you’ve ran right back into your old life,” he retorted. I started to slow down and think. All the time I think that without this or that, my life would be easier. But looking at most of the things I am handling, they are all there from my prior choices. And yet I always feel trapped. Have I trapped myself in this state of frustration and hopelessness?
Branching off of that, many people struggle with spiritual life. Always fighting to get up and do that devotional or to pray or to not do that sin over and over and over. Thinking “I have to do this, I have to do that.” Yes, we’re trying to follow God’s law, and following the Law is a good thing. But the problem is that we try and do it in our own strength, but we can’t because we are sinful by nature. As Paul said:
“…For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.” (Romans 7:17-20, NLT)
So we find ourselves trapped, locked up in this situation that we’ve ultimately thrown ourselves into. We are still in slavery, slavery to sin. It seems straight-up hopeless. Is there any way we can be free? Paul says who can in the same chapter:
“The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” (verse 25) [Side note: when you have the chance, read Romans 6-8. Addresses this whole topic and is straight-up amazing when thinking about God’s grace.]
What he is saying, basically, is that once we surrender our sinful nature to Jesus, He can and will get us out of our hopeless situation into freedom from sin. We may be trapped in our prison cell, holding the key, but Jesus is on the other side of the bars, just waiting for us to surrender the key so He can unlock it. Yet, somehow we try to break down the bars, climb out the window, dig a hole through the wall with a spoon and hide it with a poster. We do everything to try and achieve freedom without Jesus, but it won’t work. Are we trapping ourselves by refusing to surrender to Him?
Man, sometimes I end up preaching to myself…
My Defense February 8, 2010
I’ve noticed something about myself: the closer I am to someone, the more I try to stop from getting closer. Maybe even the more I try to push him or her away. If I feel really close to a friend, I will not want to tell him or her how I am truly feeling or ask him or her for a favor. Why, you may ask? I am not sure. Maybe I am afraid to get close to people; maybe I’m afraid of screwing up the relationship; maybe I don’t think I am worth spending that much time on. Maybe it’s a combination of the three. Point is, if I know you and I ask you for a favor, it actually is taking a lot of bravery on my part.
Some of you may have noticed this. For instance, when I ask a favor of someone, I become really shy and then apologize profusely once I choke the question out. Or if someone notices I am not happy, if he or she asks me what’s wrong, I will more likely than not say “Nothing,” whether or not it’s true. I suppose it’s something of a defense mechanism I’ve developed over time. I know it’s probably not healthy and it’s an unnecessary wall I should knock down…, but what if I can’t? Or if I don’t know how? Or, the thought that I keep having, what if it’s better?
I never want to be a burden to people I love, and I never want to seem self-centered. What if this is better? So I won’t have to think about people worrying about me or getting tired of me or anything of the sort? Besides, I am not supposed to be all downcast and sad… or make anyone else feel that way. So what if it’s better to just keep everything to myself and handle it on my own? …Why am I even writing this?
Music: My anti-drug January 22, 2010
School started on the 5th and the drain is already taking place. When there’s not class, there is a ministry meeting; when there is not a ministry meeting, there is an event planning; when there isn’t an event planning, there is work to worry about, and on it goes. Even the things I used to take as just leisure have started to add stress, and personal relationships even begin to get complicated. After a solid block of classes and notifications on various committees and practices and dealing with the personal dramas of life, I often feel like walking into the Student Center and collapsing on one of the couches, falling into a stage REM sleep. Instead, I drag myself into my room, close the door, turn on my computer, and drown out the world with music.
Music has long been my anti-drug. Every time I felt an extreme emotion, I would have a song for it. When I was tired, depressed, ecstatic, in love, confused, searching, heartbroken, I would find a source of music and blast a conducive song. Yes, my preferred styles have changed; in 8th grade the first thing I would have played would be Evanescence and now it’s Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir; but I still have the same reasoning behind it. Behind music holds a certain kind of life, something different from everything else in the world. I don’t think people still quite understand why a certain mixture and alteration of pitch, rhythm, timbre, and texture makes parts of the brain light up and is pleasing to the ear, or why it makes things easier to memorize or understand, or how it impacts the soul so deeply, and I think no one will ever truly understand.
Music has always been something special to me. I grew up with music surrounding me, I sing and play instruments, and though I welcome most genres, I am rather meticulous when it comes to music quality. Listening to music comforts me, makes me feel wrapped up in the melody, the harmony, the compilation of the background instruments. Sometimes it even makes me feel closer to something, someone; makes me feel like I am not alone. Well, since this morning, I have been blasting music in my room, and yet something in me still feels empty. Even though the music helps me to a point, and calms me to a point, I have become painfully aware of an invisible border, and painfully aware of a looming feeling of aloneness. And it sucks to feel alone.
To be continued…?
I am proud of: my ability to pick things up quickly. …Usually. I love to learn new skills. Usually I will find out how to do something online and get on learning it. That is, if I am interested in the subject. But when a person is teaching, maybe especially when a person is teaching, I can pick up things very quickly. I am currently learning Jewish dancing, and even one of the more experienced dancers said that I pick up on the moves rather quickly. I guess that’s a good thing.